The Allure of Aquamarine

As we near the beginning of March, the days are getting a little longer and warmer, giving us a peek that spring is on its way. Here at Nina Nguyen Designs, we think March’s serene birthstone, aquamarine, is perfectly suited for this seasonal transition.

The word aquamarine comes from the Latin words “aqua” (meaning water) and “marina” (meaning sea), and is reminiscent of the vibrancy and iridescence of the ocean. Like seawater, an aquamarine can flaunt shades from the palest green to a dark, deeply saturated blue. Nina Nguyen Designs’ is proud to offer a fresh and beautiful take on aquamarine that is a muted, milky light blue with a truly organic feel. All of our aquamarine jewelry also features the charming and antique appeal of rose-cut stones. The rose-cut pattern is named after the flower, which it is said to resemble. With a flat base and dome-shaped top, this stone actually “rose” to popularity during the Victorian era.

Visit our website today and shop our stunning aquamarine bangles, rings, necklaces and interchangeable earrings that can be put into different frames or transformed into pendants. With eye-catching translucency and delightful sparkle, it’s hard to beat Nina Nguyen Designs’ aquamarine collection that is uniquely handcrafted with delicate details.

Nina Nguyen Designs’ Adorn Silver Ring in druzy aquamarine.

Did you know aquamarine is a symbol of youth, hope, health and fidelity? It is the birthstone of March, but you’ll want to wear versatile aquamarine all year-long.

All About That Texture: Have You Met Florentine?

Here at Nina Nguyen Designs, each piece of jewelry is handcrafted with a unique combination of colors, various shapes, innovative cuts, sizes and texture. Texture, particularly, is an essential element that helps to truly personalize our creations.

Meet Florentine, Nina Nguyen Designs’ signature hand-hammered texture that Nina spent an entire summer creating and perfecting through a series of trial and error. Inspiration for the striking texture, which features a crisscross motif and satin-like sheen, comes from a trip she took along the Mekong River through Cambodia and Vietnam. She passed through small craft villages where she observed artisans weaving bamboo baskets, and from that moment was determined to create a truly innovative pattern for her jewelry designs that incorporated a basketweave-like appearance.

While cruising along Southeast Asia’s Mekong River, Nina Nguyen passed through craft villages where she observed artisans weaving bamboo baskets. This was her inspiration for Florentine, which has a basketweave-like pattern.

“I love the way the hammer cuts through the surface of the metal, leaving the perfect texture that has a soft finish that’s not quite matte and not quite glossy – for a luxe look with handcrafted flare,” said Nina Nguyen. “In the process, I went through so many hammering techniques, and a basket-full of hammers, to design this perfect pattern that cuts through metal a certain way. I’m over the moon that I could incorporate my labor of love into my designs.”

You can view all of the Nina Nguyen Designs’ pieces featuring the exclusive Florentine pattern on her website. Beautifully textured earrings, rings and bangles—as well as a stunning necklace that’s in the works—are topped off with exquisite black oxidation, high-quality sustainable diamonds, ethically sourced gemstones bordered with 18k recycled gold, and more.

Florentine is the perfect texture that has a soft, satin finish. It is incorporated on Nina Nguyen Designs’ interchangeable earrings that can be turned into a pendant or used as a charm

“I’m so proud to say that our jewelry is not only unique and stylish, but that its beauty goes well beyond aesthetics,” said Nina.
 

2018 Highlights: A Year in Review for Nina Nguyen Designs

Some say the best is yet to come, but here at Nina Nguyen Designs, we believe the best is all around us. While we look forward to an exciting and innovative 2019, we also have a lot of significant moments and accomplishments to reflect on from this past year. Here’s a look at our top 2018 highlights:

1. In July, the Nina Nguyen Designs interchangeable earring collection was awarded a patent-pending status which allows these pieces to be transformed for multiple-use, convertible styling. Earrings featured in the collection can individually be turned into a pendant and worn on a necklace, or used as a charm to complement wrap bracelets. This patent-pending earring design—which features mixed metals and saturated colors—was born from Nina Nguyen’s desire to allow customers the chance to personalize their own design aesthetic. “The wealth of options and flexibility within this system serves as a platform to expand with endless designs and provide our customers with opportunity to personalize their styles in an elegant and fashionable way,” said Nina Nguyen. And that’s a wrap!

These interchangeable earrings can individually be turned into a pendant and worn on a necklace, or used as a charm.

2.  As part of our continued commitment and passion for sustainability, we are proud to have redesigned our 18k yellow gold line by accenting our signature, colorful pieces with more sustainable diamonds. “Diamonds are the epitome of elegance and romance, and we’re proud to stand by our recycled, conflict-free diamonds that are sure to elevate any look,” said Nguyen. Since the redesign, the jewelry has been extremely well-received—exceeding Nguyen’s expectations. “We care as much about style as we do sustainability, and it’s truly gratifying to witness skyrocketing sales which indicate that our customers and partners feel the same way,” said Nguyen.

Ethical jewelry has never looked more stylish and glamorous! Our Diamond Lace Pave Gold Ring, part of the redesigned 18k yellow gold collection, is handcrafted with recycled gold and set with sustainable diamonds for an elegant, timeless look.

3. To meet increasing consumer demands, Nina Nguyen Designs invested in a new production facility in Vietnam, which when fully occupied accommodates over 50 employees. The new facility is helping Nina Nguyen Designs to further improve our production process, allowing us to produce even higher quality pieces as well as launch our redesigned gold collection. “We are excited that this new facility sets remarkable standards in the global jewelry industry in terms of craft, scale, speed and environmental impact,” said Nguyen. ”The new facility will potentially quadruple our production capacity to more than 3,000 pieces a month.”

A Nina Nguyen Designs artisan handcrafting jewelry in the new production facility in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam


4. In mid-2018, we honed our ability to track retail store performance. Our improved process is to determine optimum inventory and replenish as pieces sell for a minimum of six months. Then, using the sales data, we can further optimize inventory based on pieces, stones, price point, etc., to always ensure stores have the best-selling pieces in stock for customers.  

5. Last, but certainly not least, several of Nina Nguyen Designs’ retail partner stores saw record-breaking sales of 80 to 100 pieces sold per month, as well as high repurchase rates in 2018 with some partners quadrupling sales in piece count and tripling sales in dollars. “Retailers that have strongly embraced the Nina Nguyen Designs line, as well as followed our streamlined inventory management process, have been overwhelmingly successful in selling our jewelry,” said Nguyen. “2018 certainly reaffirmed that in order to boost sales performance, best selling pieces need to always be represented and replenished.”

Overall, it was an amazing year and we look forward to an equally rewarding 2019.

Home is Where Your Jewels Are!

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photo via theoxfordhotel.com

Nina Nguyen Designs has found an amazing new home! We are sad to leave the beautiful Victorian house where our office has been for the last two years, but couldn’t be more excited about our new office. Located in the heart of downtown Denver in the Oxford Hotel, it has vintage charm with five star amenities. Opened in 1891, the Oxford Hotel is one of the oldest in Denver. We’ll be just steps away from the iconic Union Station.

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photo via theoxfordhotel.com

This new location gives us an amazing new space with opportunities to host guests and events in this iconic building. We can’t wait for you to visit!

Handcrafted on the Mekong

by James

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We concluded our excursion on the Mekong with visits to many hard-working families that use local materials to produce a variety of handicrafts and home essentials. Echoing Nina’s combination of focus and creativity, these often women-led businesses demonstrated a relaxed spirit of entrepreneurial enthusiasm.

In fact, I later learned why it was common to see so much self-starting industriousness throughout my travels in Vietnam—95% of Vietnamese support capitalism, by far more than any other country (including the USA) surveyed by the Pew Research Center. With careful planning by our guide, we took to the canals and paths of Tân Phong island and nearby areas to meet as many of these women as we could.

 

Starting by sampan (flat bottomed small wooden boat), we cut through a lush section of Tân Phong to see the first shops before switching to bikes to complete our tour. Among the reed hat makers, tapioca-derived lacework artisans, hanging basket weavers, and others, my favorite was the ease with which a woman could carry on a casual conversation with Nina while also swiftly thatching a roof panel from nipa palm and the comradery among those selling beautiful baskets made from water hyacinth. While I didn’t bring home any thatch roofing, my daughters do now delight in having a sampan-shaped hyacinth basket to display geodes and other little travel treasures.

 

We also passed by many of the larger businesses along the main tributary of the Mekong. Sunday morning activity was light, but the size and number of the operations displayed the productivity of the region. The most notable buildings to any river traveler are the beehive-shaped earthen kilns rising dozens of feet above the banks of the river. Fed by massive baskets of rice hulls, these ovens typically dry bricks but also the pottery commonly seen throughout Saigon and further afield.

 

As our guide directs our boat to Vinh Long for the shuttle back to Saigon, we take with us an increased appreciation for the favors, sights, and people of the Mekong Delta. Seeing Nina’s team produce her stunning vision of the Mekong collection reminds me that Saigon is reflection of its place in the Mekong Delta.

 

 

Flavors of the Mekong

By James

Gems must be on my mind because the colorful fruits along the Mekong provide subtle reminders of the multi-colored sapphires and diamonds embedded in gold bangles back at the studio.

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In this instance, I’m admiring a woven basket holding bright red dragon fruit and yellow mango aboard our boat rounding Tân Phong island. Nina breaks open the scaly, layered folds of the dragon fruit to reveal a delicate white flesh studded with black seeds. The texture and flavor is much less dramatic than its appearance, reminiscent of a kiwi fruit. This contrasts with the meaty flavor of yesterday’s jack fruit. Meaty, really? Surprisingly, jack fruit is a hearty carnitas substitute for the vegan taco-lover.

Of course, the Mekong Delta offers much more than just tropical fruit. An early morning walk to the market at Hoà Ninh reveals the raw bounty of the region, especially the seafood or I should say riverfood. Bags of dried shrimp sit alongside buckets of live fish, eels, snakes, and frogs at the waterfront. Avoiding a catfish leaping from a bucket, I move to wander through the less animated stalls of produce, baked goods, and household items.

Heading back to our homestay, we watch a busy couple deliver blocks of ice by boat, reminding me of ca phe sua da back at the homestay. A day on the Mekong (really, any day in Vietnam) is not complete until a delicious iced coffee with milk is at hand. Vietnamese coffee is very dark, strong, and bitter so the condensed milk and ice create the perfect balance.

Packed up and back on the river, we enjoy snacks of coconut-sweetened tapioca with sticky rice wrapped in green banana leaves and jasmine green tea as we head to the homes of artisans scattered throughout the region.

In the next post, I’ll share more about how the women we meet create both practical and beautiful items with local materials like water hyacinth and nipa palm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nina’s Travels – Mui Ne

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Mui Ne Sunset

As most of you already know, all of my work is hand-crafted in beautiful Vietnam, my birthplace.  I have an office in Denver, CO and all of my jewelry is hand-made in Saigon.  I split half of my year in the states and half of the year in Vietnam.  I absolutely love to travel and find myself creatively inspired on all of my journeys.  This recent excursion was no exception.  While in Saigon I decided to treat myself to a quick weekend getaway in the gorgeous beach town of Mui Ne.

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Mui Ne Sand Dunes

Fifteen years ago Mui Ne was just a small, sleepy fishy town that was barely a blip on the map with only 25,000 residents.  Today it is a bustling resort town where you can find tourists swimming, surfing, sun-bathing, or shopping.  Kite surfing has recently become an avid pastime as well.  It’s been on my bucket list for a while and I’m so happy I made the trek out there last month.  Three hours and $6 (USD) on the bus will bring you this gorgeous stretch of beach, only 10 kilometers long.

 

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Crystal clear waters of Mui Ne

I went with one of my dear friends and our hotel was $20 (USD) or only $10 each!  That is the part I love about traveling in my home country, the cost of living is a dream.  Our hotel was super cute, low key, yet posh and situated right on the beach.  We also made sure to hit up Joe’s, The Art Café, a surfside restaurant that is the only establishment in town that stays open all year.  They have live music every evening.  It’s a perfect ending to a magical day, sitting outside slowly sipping on a beer while the sounds of crashing waves can be heard softly in the background to some chill local tunes.

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Kite surfing in Mui Ne

If you ever make it out this way, I highly recommend checking out The Fairy Stream.  This low water level stream has a soft current that allows for an adventure of discovery at any pace you choose.  You’ll find toddlers stop to stare and play in tidal pools, teenagers swimming, lovebirds sitting on a rock with their feet dangling in the water, but most of all you’ll find the peace and serenity you’ve been searching for.

 

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Calm, peaceful beach of Mui Ne

During this last excursion I felt a tremendous amount of pride for my country.  While I’m a dual citizen, it’s the heartbeat of Vietnam that stirs me and always offers tons of creative ideas.  I’m extremely proud of my Heirloom Collection which is a celebration of my heritage and hopefully embraces the beauty and magic of all lands far away.

 

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Nina Nguyen Designs, Heritage Collection